In some cities, driving a taxi is considered an important, valued, even elevated vocation. In London, for example, you need to study and train for about three years before you can get a license. Three fourths of those who begin the taxi training course, never make it to the end. Because of the seriousness with which they take the job, London cab drivers have even been the subjects of brain studies, which have discovered that the cabbies have a larger hippocampus compared with other people.
Unfortunately, here, on the other side of the pond, cabbies are usually looked down upon. But maybe this list of famous folk who spent time driving taxis will help change the image a little.
1. Larry David
Who can't picture the misanthropic funny-man behind Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm driving a taxi? In truth, David's early career was peppered with a whole host of odd jobs, including limousine driver and--strapped into your parachutes?--bra salesman! Pretty appropriate career choice for the real life George Costanza, eh?
Now Hail This: When David worked as a cabbie, he was living across the hall from Kenny Kramer, who would later serve as the inspiration for Michael Richards' character on Seinfeld.
2. David Mamet
The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright credits his brief period as a Chicago cab driver as on-the-job training for his later career as a writer. Mamet often decried the notion that real writers were trained in the halls of Ivy League institutions and looked to "knockaround guys" like Jack London, Nelson Algren and Ernest Hemingway as his inspiration.
Now Hail This: When it comes to writing, Mamet values life experience over technique and will often compare his favorite writers to cab drivers.
3. Danny Glover
In 1999, the actor best known for playing an over-the-hill cop in the Lethal Weapon movies, used his leverage as a former San Francisco cab driver to raise awareness about African Americans being passed over for white passengers. In response, Rudolph Giuliani launched Operation Refusal, which suspended the licenses of cab drivers who favored white passengers over black ones.
Now Hail This: Glover's much publicized outrage has spawned countless Internet parodies, aptly titled "The Danny Glove Cab Test." Watch it here.
4. Jimmy Smits
He may have his Masters in Dramatic Arts from Cornell, but for a brief period in the early "˜80s, Jimmy Smits played chauffeur to dozens of rowdy New Yorkers. The cabbie gig lasted only a few months, until he received the pilot script for a new show producer Steven Bochco was developing called LA Law. After failing to impress NBC Executives, Smits booked a $99 flight to the West Coast to audition for Bochco in person.
Now Hail This: As a struggling New York theater actor, Smits acted in off-Broadway plays during the day while driving a cab at night.
5. Paul Stanley
The early days of Kiss were not very glamorous for Paul Stanley. His parents were convinced his obsession with rock music was just a fad, and threatened to cut off their schnorer son. What's a guitar wielding frontman of a dingy rock-n-roll band to do? Take a part time job as a cab driver, of course.
Now Hail This: One of the most frequent stops on Stanley's route was Madison Square Garden, where he would drive customers to see everything from Knicks games to Elvis concerts.
6. Philip Glass
Before he penned film scores for The Truman Show and Notes on a Scandal, Philip Glass was just another Julliard-trained composer struggling to make a living in New York City. It was behind the wheel of a cab that Glass worked on Einstein on the Beach, his most recognized opera. Glass loved the independence of being a cab driver, and he kept the job until he was able to earn a living from his music. Of course, financially, he is now the most successful living "˜classical' composer in the world.
Now Hail This: While still a relatively unknown composer, a female customer entered Glass's cab and recognized his music blaring form the stereo. Glass later surprised the woman by revealing his identity.